August 07, 2020

Chairman Takano Supports Two New, Bipartisan Bills to Prevent Veteran Suicide, Expand Virtual Treatment

New bills from Reps. Golden & Finkenauer will increase access to virtual mental healthcare & provide peer support for veterans’ families

Press Contact

Jenni Geurink (202-819-4684)

Miguel R. Salazar

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, House Committee of Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) announced his support for two new, bipartisan bills that will help prevent veteran suicide by expanding access to virtual mental healthcare and teaching critical coping strategies to veterans’ families. The Veterans’ Access to Online Treatment Act introduced by Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) will increase access to evidence-based, effective online treatments for mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, PTSD, military sexual trauma, and substance abuse—especially crucial as the COVID-19 pandemic moves more care virtually. The Peer Support for Veteran Families Act introduced by Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa) and Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) will establish a pilot program at VA facilities to support veterans’ families through education and peer support after a mental health disorder diagnosis. Both bills align with the Committee’s comprehensive seven pillar approach to prevent veteran suicide by addressing every angle, factor, and intersection that may lead to suicide itself. 

 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it even clearer that we need to provide more mental healthcare and peer support online—something veterans and their caregivers have been advocating for even before the pandemic hit,” said Chairman Mark Takano. “That’s why I strongly support these new bipartisan bills from Rep. Golden and Rep. Finkenauer to increase virtual treatment for mental health disorders and provide peer support for veterans’ families after a diagnosis. By increasing access to mental healthcare, promoting connectedness, and teaching coping strategies, these bills will take meaningful steps towards preventing veteran suicide.”

 

“For veterans who live in rural areas far from a VA facility — and there are thousands in Maine — distance is often a huge barrier to receiving care,” said Rep. Golden. “That distance can be dangerous if it keeps veterans from seeking care for mental health issues. Telehealth alternatives are a promising way to address this problem for rural veterans, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. My bill would create a pilot program to expand remote mental health care for rural veterans, with the goal of creating nation-wide program using what we learn. That would mean better care for more veterans, and more veterans who can stick close to home — and their families — to get the help they need.”

 

"The folks who support our veterans need more support,” Rep. Finkenauer said. “Caring for someone with a mental health diagnosis can take a toll, putting family members and loved ones at risk for anxiety, depression and other health problems. The Peer Support for Veterans Families Act will help ensure we’re providing needed support for our caregivers, just like we see in private healthcare systems. I want to thank Congressman Curtis for working on this important bill that could change lives."

 

Background: Earlier this year, the Committee adopted a comprehensive 7 pillar framework to address every factor that may leads to veteran suicide. Building on this strategy, Chairman Takano introduced the Veterans ACCESS Act—meaningful legislation that would ensure all veterans-- regardless of discharge status or whether they receive care at VA hospitals -- have access to the emergent mental health care they need. So far this summer, new suicide prevention legislation has been introduced to expand VA telehealth careevaluate the effectiveness of VA’s REACH VET programreform VA Policeexamine VA’s Solid Start programimplement the Zero Suicide Initiative, and mandate suicide prevention training for community health providers

 

If you or a veteran you know are struggling, contact the Veteran Crisis Line 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1, or text 838255. For more information about the Committee’s efforts to address the COVID-19 crisis and resources available for veterans, please visit: https://veterans.house.gov/covid-19.

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